Civil Society Bahamas Honors Pioneers

left to right: Civil Society Fundraising Committee Chair, Dr Jacinta Higgs; Civil Society Bahamas President, Dr Anthony Hamilton; honoree, CSB past President Terry Miller; honoree, CSB Board Member Marilyn T Zonicle; the niece of honoree, CSB Board Member A Leonard Archer; honoree, CSB past president Freddie Munnings Jr; honoree, CSB Board Member Richard Johnson; and CSB Chair, Public Relations Committee, Sherry Benjamin.

Trailblazers in advocacy for the rights of Bahamians everywhere were honored during a special awards banquet, hosted by Civil Society Bahamas this month. They were hailed for their tireless efforts to bring about change – commanding respect and empowerment for their fellow Bahamians. 

The honorees are: Freddie Munnings Jr;Terry Miller; A. Leonard Archer; Marilyn T Zonicle; Richard Johnson; and, posthumously, Reginald Loboski. Governor General Sir CA Smith noted that over many years, the Civil Society of The Bahamas has been effectively engaged in worthy efforts toward the advancement of social justice and equality in The Bahamas.

The event was held at the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union (BCPOU)’s  Willamae Bridgewater Convention Centre on Saturday, October 7 at 7pm. Diplomats and leaders from various sectors including government, the clergy and civil society attended to pay homage to these pioneers of progress. 

“These honorees are driven by love of country, justice, national pride and patriotism, and the foundational principles of successful nationhood,” said Prime Minister Philip E Davis, KC.

Freddie Munnings Jr is an internationally known entertainer, artist and producer. He recorded his first signature song “All the Best Things” in 1974. He has an illustrious career, spanning decades and taking him to the finest stages, concert halls and hotels around the world. He is a past president of Civil Society Bahamas (CSB), inspiring many to follow his lead in being agents of positive change. He and a cohort of Bahamian music professionals during his time used music to elevate and empower their fellow Bahamians. In this way, musicians helped to drive social and revolutionary changes that brought about Majority Rule and Bahamian Independence. He is Ambassador of Culture to the People’s Republic of China, and is actively involved in civic organizations including: Rotary Club of West nassau; Bahamas Trade Union Congress; National Tripartite Council; Economic Recovery Committee; and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.

Terry Miller is known as CSB’s “recruiting president” because during his several tenures as president, he successfully brought many great Bahamians into the organization. He is a philanthropist and an advocate who has helped to spur change in a number of areas including substance abuse, rehabilitation, social and criminal justice, equality and the environment. Miller has served on committees including the Inter-American Development Bank (ConSoc Bahamas); Office of the Prime Minister (National Development Plan); and Ministry of National Security (Probation, Parole, Drug Court). He is well known as the founder and Executive Director of the Bahamas Association for Social Health (BASH). But he is also president and founding member of the Bahamas Cannabis Research Institute (BACARI) and Green Alternative Investment Network Cooperative Society Ltd (GAIN Co-op).

Former Ambassador A Leonard Archer is hailed as one of the founding fathers of Civil Society Bahamas. He was president of the Bahamas Teachers Union, and was involved in the 1981 Teachers Strike. He was president of the Caribbean Congress of Labour, and represented the Caribbean on the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, based in Brussels. Ambassador Archer is an original member of the Commonwealth Foundation for Civil Society Sector. In 1992, he was appointed as High Commissioner and Ambassador to CARICOM Countries after serving as the Director of Labour. Having a long history with Civil Society Bahamas, Mr Archer is currently a Director and Deputy Chair of the Governance and National Affairs Committee. 

Retired Ambassador Marilyn T Zonicle has a wealth of experience in the diplomatic sector, helping to bring about change for her country, region and world. She served as Deputy Permanent Representative at the Permanent Mission of The Bahamas to the United Nations in New York. She was Deputy High Commissioner and Consul General to the Bahamas High Commission in London. Ambassador Zonicle was also Charge d’Affaires and Consul General in the Republic of Haiti and was seconded to the Secretariat of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). This is only the tip of the iceberg of her wealth of diplomatic work. In civics, she serves on the Board of Civil Society Bahamas and the UNESCO civil society organisation. She is enacting change in many areas of society including the advancement of women, nutrition and conservation.

Richard Johnson has been a catalyst for change in his nation as a leader in the Trade Union Movement, promoting the “power of the people” to govern their country. He has served as president of the Public Service Drivers Union (PSDU) since 2002. Since then, he has been lobbying the government to create a public private partnership on the taxi franchise. The PSDU wants to broker an agreement with the government to allow three unions to manage the business from docks, airports and hotels. He is known for promoting the recognition of taxi drivers, straw vendors, hotel workers and longshoremen, for their contributions to national development. He has been a Board Member of the Trade Union Congress since 1995 and is also Director of the non profit, Bahamas Loving Care Association. 

Founding President of Civil Society Bahamas, attorney Reginald Lobosky, was honored posthumously. He was the former chairman of the United Bahamian Party (UBP). He contested the Fort Fincastle constituency in 1967, and served in the Senate from 1968 to 1972. After this period, Mr Lobosky attended the University of London, attaining LLB and LLM degrees. In 2002, Mr Lobosky became president of the Bahamas Civil Society Organization (BSCO) which later became Civil Society Bahamas (CSB). It was a grassroots organization formed from a series of CARICOM meetings with heads of Government for the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and the Economic Partnership (EPA), as a response to globalization and the push to join the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). He worked with the National Congress of Trade Unions and all of its affiliates and served as the Chair of the Civil Society Consultative Group which met at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

President of Civil Society Bahamas, Dr Anthony Hamilton, and immediate past president Sean Ingraham came together to produce this historic event, noting that “our founding forefathers and foremothers had a vision for expectations for the citizenry and residents of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas”.

Source: Felicity Darville